How many hours should your child be sleeping? A new study found that opinions vary significantly amongst sleep experts, but the bottom line is that we’ve been saying for over 100 years that children need to sleep more. Unfortunately, the media has put a spin on this research, concluding that you should “never trust sleep experts.”
While it is true that we’ve been saying children need more sleep for years, critics are saying that there’s no evidence that children actually need more sleep. I beg to differ. It’s been reported that teens in one competitive high school sleeps an average 5-6 hours per night. We know from hundreds of studies that eve 1-2 hours of chronic sleep deprivation leads to significant declines in cognitive and behavioral measures. Adults need about 7-8 hours per night. Teens need about 8 to 9 hours per night, school-aged children, 10-11, and 3-6 year olds, anywhere from 10-12.
I know from personal experience that some of my 9 year old son’s classmates get 6-7 hours per night. I even blogged about seeing parents bring their preschool children with them to see a movie that ended at midnight. Granted everyone has different sleep needs, but if you’re saying a child can function normally on 3-5 hours of regular sleep deprivation every night, you’re fooling yourself. If your child is functioning normally, it’s more likely that he or she is being medicated with stimulants.
What’s more important than the number of hours you sleep is the quality of your sleep. Even if your child is able to sleep 10 hours per night, if she stops breathing even 1-5 times per hour, then by definition, it’s going to cause problems, whether it manifests in physical, emotional, or behavioral ways. What’s worse is if you don’t sleep efficiently, and you sleep less than you should, it’s a double whammy. We know that chronic sleep deprivation can also increase cravings for fatty, sugary foods, and promote weight gain. Sleep length has been directly linked to weight in children. No wonder there’s also an obesity epidemic in children these days.
How long do your children sleep? How much longer should they be sleeping?